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When sixteen year old Brendon Retzlaff debuted for Collie Saints in 1986 he had no idea of the long and winding road his football career would take.Collie league coach Trevor Stewart had tried to recruit Retzlaff as a fifteen year old but his father wouldn't have a bar of it. Related to Dick Robinson, who still holds the Goldfields League goalkicking record of 139 goals in a season, and leading pacing trainer/reinsman Jack Retzlaff, Brendon was an outstanding junior , and was a member of Collie's premiership side of 1987. A Claremont supporter, Retzlaff was under scrutiny from several league clubs, but it was West Perth who made the initial approach. In 1987 coach Bruce Monteath was hot on his trail, but was unable to guarantee suitable employment for Brendon, who was an apprentice at Worsley Alumina, near Collie. Meanwhile another league coach, John Todd, was able to offer him contacts, which succeeded in him gaining employment at O'Donnell-Griffen in Bassendean. A visit from Ed Blackaby and Stan Nowotny clinched the deal. A deceptive player, who was quicker than he appeared, with very good foot skills, Retzlaff played a few reserves games at Swan Districts in 1989 before playing with the league side against another newcomer, Subiaco's Dean Kemp. “I did OK,” said Brendon, who went on to play ten league games that season. He was a regular in 1990, and was one of Swans best when they won the grand final, defeating Claremont. Matched up on rover Tony Evans, Retzlaff overcame a shoulder injury with the help of needles to give a performance that attracted the attention of Collingwood, who selected him in the draft that year. Brendon Retzlaff  trod a rocky road over a six year AFL career, during which he never really realised his  potential. He didn't move to Melbourne when drafted by Collingwood, preferring to remain with Swan Districts. Selected for Western Australia in 1990 for the game against South Australia in Adelaide in which the Sandgropers, minus their large contingent of players involved with West Coast, battled manfully against a full strength South Australian side. In 1991, Retzlaff was a standout against the Croweaters at Subiaco Oval, when roving in partnership with Robbie West, and was awarded the Simpson Medal. The untimely loss of Darren Millane had the Pies looking West at a replacement, and Retzlaff appeared to be headed for Victoria Park, but a backroom deal saw him diverted North to the Brisbane Bears in a transaction that involved Brad Hardie, Colin Alexander, and Brad Rowe. “It was a tough time at Brisbane,” Brendon recalled. “It was a newly established club, with many teething problems. I spoke to John Todd on the phone, and he said he wouldn't have recommended the move. In his efforts to mould us into a competitive side Robert Walls trained us exceptionally hard. I remember later at West Coast Dean Kemp commenting one particular night that it'd been a tough training run, and I thought it had been easy compared to Walls's workouts. But it often left us stale for the game on the weekend.” After fifteen appearances with Brisbane the club wanted to change his two year contract to one that would cut his payments considerably. Brendon refused, and  was eventually picked up by West Coast, who were aware of his desire to return home. He played three games with the Eagles, including the memorable clash with Collingwood at Victoria Park, when they defeated the Pies on their home turf for the first time. When the AFL club lists were cut back the following year, Retzlaff was one of the casualties. “Well, that’s that,” thought Brendon, after being cut loose from his third club. But it wasn't.He received a call from the fledgling Fremantle Dockers, and became part of the club's inaugural squad, under coach Gerard Neesham. “I enjoyed playing under Neesham,” said Brendon. “His ideas were different, some later to be adopted by other coaches.” But achilles and groin problems involving operations put paid to Retzlaff's chances of a lengthy stay with Fremantle, and he made only six appearances with the club before returning to Swan Districts, where he captained the side. After playing a hundred and twenty games at Swan Districts, Retzlaff was headed back home, but a phone call from Russell Clark, football manager at Peel Thunder, resulted in him spending a year there.Thirteen years and plenty of water under the bridge after his debut game as a sixteen year old, Brendon Retzlaff once again donned the Saints guernsey and was a member of the club in it’s last season before amalgamating with old rivals, Mines Rovers in 2001. He was later included in the “Collie Allstars, 1961 to 2010” side. Brendon is married to Tania, and they have two girls, Ellie and Kate and a boy, Jack. Two Eagles stars received plaudits from Brendon, as hardest to beat and best he played with. “I played on Peter Matera at the WACA in 1992, and he was almost the complete wingman,” he said. “And Dean Kemp was a brilliant player.”He recalled going to a scratch match with Craig Callaghan. “Travis Edmonds was right behind us, we stopped at a set of lights, Travis's front end got caught up on our towbar, and when we took off half of his front end travelled with us.” Another vehicle episode concerned Victorian David Ryan, who was with the Brisbane Bears at the time. “Dave had an old clapped out Holden HK, and was behind us on the way to training one evening. We heard a loud bang, then looked on as half a back axle and a back wheel sailed past us.” Matty Campbell pulled up, scratching his head.Brendan Retzlaff had little fortune at AFL level, showing undoubted ability with several outstanding efforts with the Brisbane Bears, but has no regrets. “I played with and against many fine players, made some great mates, and am thankful for the opportunities the three AFL clubs gave me.”  

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